Melanie Clemmons is Paving the Way for Creative Technology Professionals
SMU associate professor Melanie Clemmons fuses her artistic background with digital tech to empower students in her Mobile Computing & Augmented Reality course.
The field of creative technology is powered by professionals who blend an artistic mindset with the technical world of programming to help shape the future of how individuals interact with and use emerging technologies. Melanie Clemmons exemplifies this shift and leverages the digital realm to drive innovation and express her artistic capabilities.
Clemmons is a new media artist interested in the effects and impact of digital technologies on human behaviors. “I grew up alongside internet culture and smartphones, so a lot of my work is influenced by that parallel.”
In addition to her background as a new media artist, Clemmons is also an associate professor at SMU Meadows School of the Arts and the instructor for the Mobile Computing & Augmented Reality course in the online Master of Arts in Creative Technology graduate program.
Growing with the Digital Age
Clemmons’ introductory experience with the digital realm and social media opened her eyes to a world she could tap into more accessibly. She says, “I’m from a small-ish town and the computer and web were portals for me to explore ideas, experiences, and communities beyond my immediate, limited environment.”
From her beginnings playing point-and-click CD-ROM games and lurking proto-social media personal websites on Angelfire and GeoCities, Clemmons learned about the medium of new media art and started experimenting by making video and internet art.
“It is a unique time in human history where digital technologies have advanced as rapidly as they have and changed society exponentially. I have always been interested in it for that reason; we’re some of the first humans to have these experiences and to react and respond to such unusual change. I like to explore these new possibilities via art.”
Before her life in academia, Clemmons flourished in underground and DIY art spaces. Her experience includes creating live visuals for bands and art installations for music and art venues. She then began looking for more immersive art opportunities, deciding to go to grad school. While attending the University of Colorado, she became interested in the virtuality continuum, eventually creating a virtual reality experience for her master’s thesis exhibition.
“Currently, augmented reality (AR) is considered more accessible than virtual reality (VR) because people already have the hardware needed for AR experiences within their phones. That accessibility is extended further as AR utilizes and aims to enhance the social space shared among people.”
Choosing Your Own Adventure
Within her Mobile Computing & Augmented Reality course, Clemmons offers students an opportunity to absorb and leverage the curriculum in their own way without losing sight of the course objectives.
“I have been developing some of the coursework as ‘choose your own adventure.’ This is [meant] to solve the problem of students coming into the course with all kinds of different platforms and hardware at their disposal. It's open toward whichever direction the student wants to go in.”
The rapid advancement of technology plays a role in the foundation of the course development process, but it also allows students to learn in a way that is meaningful and helps prepare them for the dynamically shifting future of these technologies and the potential they offer.
“Obsolescence is a huge issue in any emerging technology, augmented reality included. I don’t want students to learn a specific program, only to find it obsolete in a matter of weeks. By exploring these technologies as artforms, they gain experience and skills, while also staying big picture minded. This approach helps prepare them to adapt to the inevitable progression of the medium.”
The excitement of teaching in a new, innovative graduate program, surrounded by other creative technology professionals, continually fuels Clemmons with inspiration. She reflects, “In our ever-evolving field, each update or breakthrough sparks a wave of questions and observations. There’s a unique thrill in exploring these developments as they unfold, engaging with my class in real-time discussions to exchange insights and perspectives.”
The SMU Meadows School of the Arts M.A. in Creative Technology graduate program is designed to help prepare both creative and technical-oriented individuals to combine skill sets across interactive mediums, design, programming, blockchain and generative AI applications. To learn more about the M.A. in Creative Technology program, visit our program page.